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Paul Skenes ‘Effectively Wild’ in Major League Debut



Pirates 2023 first overall pick Paul Skenes prepares to throw during his major league debut on Saturday, May 11.

Paul Skenes pitched this weekend, believe it or not.

It may feel like half a decade ago after a two hour and 20 minute rain delay, six bases loaded walks and a ninth-inning scare on the way to a 10-9 win, but the 2023 first overall pick made his big league debut for the Pirates on Saturday afternoon, kicking off all the fun with a four-inning start.

Skenes struck out seven batters before allowing a pair of hits to open the fifth, ending a day that showed promise and inconsistency. Both runners ended up coming around to score, tagging him with a 6.75 ERA despite the otherwise strong performance.

Skenes threw 84 pitches, 54 of which went for strikes: a reasonable clip despite shaky command. His fastball only landed in the zone 48 percent of the time, and his pitch count climbed faster than he would’ve liked as errant throws forced him behind in the count.

Crossing Off Milestones

Did nerves play a factor?

“You can chalk it up to a number of things, but it just wasn’t there as sharp as it’s been,” Skenes said of his command, though he noted he still managed to sleep “like a baby” ahead of his first Major League start.

Starting catcher Yasmani Grandal, Skenes’ batterymate in the much-anticipated debut, praised the 6-foot-6 flamethrower for his ability to find success in spite of any potential nerves.

“You could tell he was a little amped up. He doesn’t usually miss with that many fastballs, but he was effectively wild today, so it was good,” Grandal said. “Not the best I’ve seen him, that’s for sure, but I hold him to high standards. Just the fact that he didn’t have everything there today and was still able to get through it was huge. We’re gonna continue going and I’m assuming he’s gonna have a way better second start.”

Skenes, similarly, said he’s glad to get the fanfare of his big league debut out of the way, including the schedule disruptions getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis posed.

“It’s gonna be nice to get into a routine for sure,” Skenes said. “I’m big on routines, so the last week has been tough, but the bottom line is you have to go out there and pitch. It’ll be nice to be on that routine again.”

Showing Off the ‘Splinker’

While Paul Skenes’ four-seam fastball might not have been where he wanted it to be, he found great success with his ‘splinker’ (or split-fingered sinker, a hybrid of the two fastball variations), drawing four called strikes and seven whiffs despite throwing it just 21 times.

Grandal began this season on the Injured List due to Plantar Fasciitis, a setback that actually helped him as it pertained to working with Skenes on the pitch. Spending time in Triple-A Indianapolis on a rehab assignment, Grandal had a chance to work with the splinker in live game action.

“I tell you, if I hadn’t caught him, I don’t know if today would have gone as it went,” Grandal said. “But the fact that I was able to do it helped me out a lot.”

Manager Derek Shelton said the splinker was one of Grandal’s main takeaways upon returning from his rehab assignment.

“He’s like ‘this pitch is different,'” Shelton said. “You don’t see very many guys, you don’t see anybody throw it at 95-96 miles per hour.”

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